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The past five weeks have felt like three months for 20-year-old Joohyung “Tom” Kim, and for good reason. The South Korean kid who named himself after the cartoon train is on the fast track.
He made a rare PGA Tour start at the Scottish Open as he stood on the Korean Tour points list.
Now he is a PGA Tour winner and he is world no. 21 and headed to the FedEx Cup playoffs, he’ll probably land a spot with the international team in the Presidents Cup.
Tom is all on the train!
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“It’s been a crazy month,” Kim said.
He announced his arrival on the PGA Tour at the Wyndham Championship, where he opened the tournament with a quadruple-bogey 8 and finished with a 9-under 61 for a five-shot victory.
“I’m really happy for Tom,” said Sungjae Im, who finished Sunday morning’s rain-delayed third round with a one-shot lead and couldn’t keep up with Kim, because no one else could. Kim shot a 27 on the front nine that left everyone in her wake.
“He’s a great kid and to come here and win as a non-member on tour and secure your card is really not an easy task and he did it,” I said.
Kim, who turns 20 in June, is the second-youngest winner on the PGA Tour since World War II. Jordan Spieth was two weeks away from turning 20 in 2013 when he won the John Deere Classic.
The victory gave Kim instant membership on the PGA Tour, qualifying him for the FedEx Cup playoffs starting next week. He is no. is 34, confident of playing in two postseason events and with a reasonable shot at making the final game at East Lake.
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I shot 68 and tied for second with John Huh (67).
Kim spent her formative years in the Philippines and Australia. He has already won three times on the Asian Development Tour and once in Korea before making his American debut at age 18 at the 2020 PGA Championship at Harding Park.
Like the name? He was a big fan of Thomas the Tank Engine as a little boy in the TV series “Thomas & Friends”.
“You let your parents name you and I’m like, ‘No, I’ll name myself Thomas.’ I loved the show as a kid. I never watched it or anything, but apparently I really liked the train.”
Another option — he’s a big “Toy Story” fan — was Buzz Lightyear. It was working. The kid is creating a lot of buzz, and he is quite a few years ahead of others his age.
Only Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia were younger when they reached 21st in the world rankings.
Kim finished third at the Scottish Open, which was co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour for the first time, and his goal was to earn enough FedEx Cup points to finish tied for the top 200 so he could earn his card through Corn Ferry’s series of late summer tour programs.
The PGA Tour does not allow live golfers to qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs in the first playoff event.
He earned special temporary PGA Tour membership when he made the cut at the British Open. He earned his PGA Tour card last week with a seventh-place finish at the Rockets Mortgage Classic. The pressure was gone, even an early quadruple bogey didn’t rattle him.
“It’s a five-week stretch for me, but it feels like three months,” Kim said. “Yeah, it’s been a busy month and a lot has changed, for sure.”
He finished at 20-under 260.
This was quite stressful for others, even non-players.
The heartbreak belonged to Justin Lower, who was poised to move into the top 125 at the FedEx Cup to reach the postseason and claim a full card for next season.
But on the final hole, Lower hit his 60-foot birdie putt a little too firmly. That left him with a 6-foot par putt that would have put him inside the top 125. He missed it to the right and was wiping away tears as he walked off the green.
“I don’t really know what I was thinking. It sucks to come this short,” Lower said. “Obviously having some help with the LIV guys and whatnot — I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that. But I don’t know. There are positives. But right now, it just sucks.”
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The tour suspended players signed with Saudi-funded LIV Golf and they did not count toward the top 125 in the FedEx Cup. The number equals 128 going into the final event of the lower regular season.
Rickie Fowler wasn’t so lucky when he missed the 123rd spot on Friday. But enough players faded over the weekend that Fowler will get to extend his season at least another week at the FedEx St. Jude Championship next week.